Captain Cook Never Sailed Here

Ahu O Laka, Oahu

May 24, 2001
Outside Magazine

Don't be afraid of Oahu. Yes, it's the busiest island in the archipelago. Yes, you'll pay $8 for a drink with a souvenir umbrella swizzle stick. But even on Oahu, you can find nature. You can find solitude. You may, however, lose it all again at high tide.
Because to find the best of Oahu, you need a kayak. One of the loveliest spots in all of the Hawaiis sits only intermittently at the edge of Kaneohe Bay, on Oahu's Windward Coast. The bay, as pretty as any in Tahiti, indents the coast for miles at the foot of the spiky Koolau range. Its cobalt and turquoise waters harbor unmatched snorkeling and swimming spots. Unfortunately, they sometimes also harbor crowds.

You can escape them—you can, in fact, have your own private Hawaiian island—by paddling to tiny Ahu O Laka, a four-acre islet on the fringe of the bay. At low tide Ahu O Laka provides a spectacular vista, a sweeping 360-degree view of Kaneohe Bay and the green mountains behind. Then, at high tide, Ahu O Laka disappears.
To reach this lovely but submersible bit of real estate, rent a kayak at Kailua Sailboards and Kayaks ($28 per day; 808-262-2555). Then head for funky Heeia Pier, about ten miles north of Kailua. The pier's version of overdevelopment is one bait shop/snack bar/gas pump. Try to reach Heeia early, when pinkish sunlight glints off the Koolau range's corrugated cliffs and white-tailed tropic birds float in the thermals above. "The Sandbar," as locals dub Ahu O Laka, is about two miles northwest of the pier. Check the tide chart at Kailua Sailboards before setting out. Underwater picnics have their allure, but only if they're planned.